„I am for an art that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum… that embroils itself with the everyday crap and still comes out on top...“ (Claes Oldenburg)


The four-time documenta participant Claes Oldenburg (1929-2022) was one of the pioneers of Pop Art, performance and installation art. In addition, he had a decisive influence on art in public space with his "Large Scale Projects", which he realised together with his partner Coosje van Bruggen (1942-2009) from the 1970s onwards. One example of these everyday objects, humorously enlarged to monumental proportions, has been a permanent installation on the banks of the Fulda since documenta 7 (1982): tilted sideways, as if it could tip over at any moment, the "Pickaxe" stands - or is stuck - on a straight axis to Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, as if the gigantic Hercules had hurled it in a high arc downhill into the city. Site-specific and at the same time falling from the sky in the truest sense of the word - as "drop art" - the oversized tool thus connects Kassel's past and present and at the same time reminds us of the post-war reconstruction.

Equally legendary was his contribution to documenta 5, the "Maus Museum": a walk-in museum building made of wood in the shape of a geometric mouse head, in whose interior a smorgasbord of various found objects and curiosities was exhibited: Replicas of bitten-off bread and other foodstuffs made of plaster, a Japanese toy dog, architectural models made of cardboard and wire, waste objects with strange, sometimes phallic shapes. An absurd, non-hierarchical collection whose compilation puts scales and meanings into perspective, brings "high" and "low" into congruence and invites us to look at the world from the perspective of a mouse.


Claes Oldenburg died on 18 July 2022 at the age of 93. He leaves behind a "Pickaxe" (1982) on the Fulda, a "Trowel" (1971) in Otterlo, the Netherlands, three "Giant Billiard Balls" (1977) in Münster, a "Garden Hose" (1983) in Eschholzpark in Freiburg, Germany, which is inflated to the height of a house, and many other "things".